Doane University taps Aruba to deploy secure network

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company (HPE), announced Doane University in Crete, Nebraska, deployed an Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform) network to bring remote and hybrid education to its 2,500 students and offer tools to its 500 faculty and staff.
Aruba for enterprise CIOsDoane, using Aruba wireless, switching, security, and management solutions, has deployed a secure network to address student and faculty needs and to begin planning for a post-pandemic learning environment in the wake of Covid-19.

Doane’s students had faced problems connecting to their courses from home or their dorms and were being dropped from their Zoom sessions. The IT team was faced with either upgrading their existing Cisco network or replacing it with a more innovative solution.

Doane University CIO Derek Bierman said: “It’s important for us to think strategically about all of the technology we’re using to provide a fantastic learning experience for our students and build a network for where the University wants to be, not where we are now.”

While Doane’s IT team considered using Cisco for a refresh, the high cost, coupled with the requirement for a future-ready solution that supports their vision, drove them to look for alternatives. The uncertainty surrounding the percentage of time students would spend in classrooms versus remote learning underscored the need for a foundation that could better address a hybrid learning model.

Doane moved to an Aruba ESP network including Aruba Wi-Fi 6 access points (APs), CX Series switches, with Aruba Central providing unified cloud-based management.

Doane University completed the first phase of the deployment across Doane’s residence halls in less than six weeks. Phase two, which includes connecting the rest of the buildings on campus and deploying ClearPass to unify wired and wireless NAC, is underway.

One of the primary reasons Doane chose Aruba ESP was its unified wired and wireless management.

Doane’s Director of IT, Ryan Dorshorst noted, “We wouldn’t want to put all of our APs in the cloud and manage them with one system, then have to troubleshoot our switches on another platform. Being able to manage everything from a single pane of glass using Aruba Central saves us valuable time and resources.”

Central allows the team to monitor and manage the network from anywhere without a VPN connection. For example, on the nights when students are moving into their residence halls, he can oversee the network remotely from his phone.

Central also enables him to run reports on specific traffic – such as that emanating only from student devices – and provides templates for easy configuration changes, resulting in time and cost savings for the IT team.

Dorshorst is also excited about the potential to use contextual data from Central to identify at-risk students so that Doane can develop programming to assist them and further enhance their educational experience.

With some of the proximity tracing capabilities inherent in Central, for example, a professor could identify an absent student and check in to make sure the student is well, can obtain notes and assignments from the missed class, and can stay on track.